Wednesday, August 09, 2006

2006 Elections: Take 2

LamontThe good little right-listing ship Lieberman has sunk. By a margin of roughly 52%-48%, the Democratic voters of Connecticut made it clear last night that they wanted a change of direction, in the person of Ned Lamont (at right, WFSB), the cable company executive whose critique of Joe Lieberman's deepening attachment to the Bush administration's bad policies and politics, especially the Iraq War, brought him from the polling abyss to victory over the well-funded, widely endorsed, political-machine backed incumbent.

Lieberman, in a concession speech last night that was indicative of his entire campaign, refused to step out of the race and after inverting his and his opponent's ideological perspectives, immediately announced that he would run as an "Independent Democrat" (even though using the latter term may be a violation of Connecticut state law), but he also spouted pro-Republican talking points that his friends in the Bush administration, including Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, RNC head Ken Mehlman, Bush's spokesman Tony Snow, and Bush himself, quickly seconded. Cheney even gave a rare press conference to affirm his support for Lieberman. Their main coordinated point was that Lamont's dramatic and important win, a confirmation of netroots activism and little "d" democracy, was somehow a danger not only to the fortunes of the Democratic Party in 2006, but to the US itself. Lamont and his supporters (including yours truly) were "far left activists," extreme "partisans," "wackadoos," Al Qaeda-enablers, etc. The future of America and the free world, to these testerically inclined folks, hinged on Lieberman winning that primary. Fortunately a slim majority of Connecticut's registered Democratic primary voters didn't buy this rhetorical nonsense; and given that 60% of Americans polled want a pullout of some sort (phased, immediate, you name it), it's likely most Americans won't either. Lieberman, like Bush & Co, is on the wrong side of this issue, but he has gone even farther in his hawkishness and delusion, claiming as recently as two months ago that the situation in Iraq was great, even as the carnage caused by the terrorists and the civil war was worsening. Whether this was denial, delusion, willful or passive ignorance or some combination of these I don't know, but the assessment spoke very poorly on his judgment.

But Lieberman, who was a lackluster Vice Presidential candidatewhen he ran with Al Gore in 2000 (I really wish there were studies exploring whether there was any correlative effect between his presence on the ticket and Gore's low or close vote totals in Southern and Midwestern states), has repeatedly been on the wrong side of issues, which is also why he lost the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and why he lost this primary battle. He hemmed and hawed on the Social Security privatization boondoggle before finally stating that he was against it; he voted for cloture for Justice Samuel Alito, allowing the full Senate vote to go forward, before voting against Alito; he voted for cloture for the bankruptcy bill, one of the worst pieces of anti-consumer legislation to come along in years; he supported the awful, intrusive Terri Schiavo legislation that the far right in the GOP were pushing; he was pro-NAFTA and CAFTA; and on and on. Of course other Democrats have voted along the same lines on some of these issues, but they aren't in primary battles and might represent more conservative constituencies than Lieberman. On top of all of this, he suggested that women who needed the morning after pill, if denied it at one hospital, could find away to convey themselves to another one, a particularly troubling comment at a time when non-rich women's access across the country to safe legal abortions is under intense attack, and when some conservatives are also pushing to restrict access to contraceptives like Plan-B and to other medications that may protect women's reproductive health. He has repeatedly spoken against affirmative action, and attempted to play racial politics against Lamont, though it backfired. George Bush has called him his "favorite" Democrat for a reason. Although Lieberman's overall "liberal" ratings are high (at least within the context of the current Congress), on key issue after key issue, this darling of Hannity and Limbaugh has often had to be pulled back towards the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Lamont, if he wins in November, however, will be in the center-left of the party as it's now constituted. A Lamont win is hardly certain, but the primary victory was a great step.

McKinneyIn one of the other high-profile Democratic primaries, incumbent Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (at right, AP Photo) lost to challenger DeKalb County commissioner Hank Johnson by 59%-41%, making Johnson a lock for the November election. I actually didn't follow this primary race that closely, but I do know that on a wide array of issues McKinney has been one of the most progressive members of the Democratic caucus, which, along with her relentless criticism of President Bush and her pro-Palestinian outspokenness on Middle East politics, has long made her a target for ouster. I remember when she was defeated four years ago by Denise Majette, shortly after publicly questioning the Bush administration's prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, only return to office in 2004. After her run-in earlier this year with the Capitol police, which led to her having to issue a public apology, I thought she might again find herself facing a primary challenge. I've seen ads for Johnson on some of the centrist and left-leaning blogs, and only know that while he isn't as outspoken and progressive-liberal on a number of issues as McKinney, he has vocally criticized the Iraq War and other Bush administration policies. Perhaps someone more familiar with this race can tell me more about him and some of the dynamics, but I do think that outspoken people of color, and especially Black women, are always political targets. McKinney, who has been criticized for her outfits, her hair, her comments, and her general attitude, sometimes to outrageous extremes (cf. Neil Boortz), was back in the crosshairs from the minute she reclaimed her office in 2004. I'm hoping that Johnson doesn't become a night-blooming cereus once he takes office.

Update: I see that McKinney's fellow Democrats have been "mum" about her loss. Something tells me they probably didn't shed a tear when they heard about Johnson's win.

In one other race that caught my attention, minister Keith Butler lost to Oakland County Michael Bouchard 60%-40% in the Michigan Republican primary, and so will not have the opportunity to face incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow. Many pundits spouting the conventional wisdom claim that the energized extremist branches of each party dominate primaries, but this is too formulaic, particularly when race enters the mix. Butler was decidedly more conservative than Bouchard, and could actually have drawn votes in the Detroit and Grand Rapids areas from Stabenow in a general election, but instead, Michigan's Republican primary voters did not tilt so far right (and Black) and selected Bouchard, who'd originally dropped out of the race but who jumped back in after some cajoling by National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairwoman Elizabeth Dole. This seriously undercut the campaign of Butler, who was touting himself as the choice of evangelicals, conservatives and hunters. Bouchard is still light years more conservative than Stabenow, trails in campaign funding, and has an uphill climb.

Random photo

A FilemakerPro class at the Apple Store in Soho


  1. Its my understanding that one possible flaw in McKinney's strategy was that she didn't engage her opponents very much, and hoped to win by using the power of her incumbency, and getting her supporters out. As Al Gore learned in TN when he ran for President, one can't take the homefolks for granted.

    As for Lieberman...what is this man on?! I lost but I'm going to keep on running? Oh, please...just leave the stage. I'm sure his friends at Fox have a pundit chair all ready and waiting for him.

  2. I guess Lieberman is ready to prove that Ralph Nader isn't the only one who doesn't know when not to let the door hit ya where the good Lord done split ya. So his GOP buddies promised they'd get him re-elected and now their stance is the same as with the troops: don't pull out 'til we say so?

    Regarding the Georgia race, I admittedly know little about Johnson except that he's further right in demeanor than McKinney and he had some tax problems a while back which he apparently resolved. You're correct about the crosshairs. Since 2004 I think the pressure has been continuous. The Capitol police situation was the beginning of the end, afterwards even all the local media broadcasts featured that same open-mouthed, semi-wild eyed head shot of McKinney, only mentioning her in reference to the incident. Her credibility and as a result her effectiveness were seriously undermined--it was all anyone in the media wanted to talk to her about even when she tried to talk about serious political issues. Then she failed to respond to an invitation to a major debate before the July election, a fact that was disclosed only after she also failed to attend (making it seem as though organizers were trying to protect her, but her lack of professionalism made it impossible to continue to do so). This was her second absence at a pre-primary debate, and this one was televised. ( I second reggieh). She did create a strong presence in the run-off debate, with a simple tailored look (hair matters!) and direct oratorical style. She seemed in command putting Johnson on the defensive about his tax troubles, but post debate Johnson ran ads that criticized her effectiveness rating. Hank Johnson gave democrats the opportunity to still vote the party ticket without it becoming a racial issue, and to vote for someone whose relatively bland/restrained demeanor promises to, as he as asserted in every debate, keep the focus on results (not personal drama). One sad aspect here is to see another black candidate use the same "Cynthia McKinney: crazy (black) woman" paintbrush that the Georgia GOP opposition has been using since she spoke out against the war.

    The bigger picture is that for the past four years the Georgia Republicans have been successfully working to wrest power back from the Democrats. As they gained more power they've even redrawn districts to aid in this endeavor. Also, it has been suggested by McKinney that Johnson willingly received support from GOP members who wanted to oust her. Finally, Georgia registered voters can request either a Democrat or Republican ballot (you have to choose the same ballot for a run-off, if you didn't vote in the primary you can choose either). Few Republican ballots were chosen for the primary, despite the high voter turnout for that district. So those Democrat-for-a-day voters probably made a meaningful difference in both votes.